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3 Year Old Boy Not Playing Well With Other Children

by Asha
(Gurgaon, India)

My 3 year old boy takes a long time to mix with other children.

When he goes to the garden he said "I fell down the stairs", and he doesn't like to run because he has a fear that children will push him.

After some time when he finally makes up his mind then he might enjoy that game.

He is going to school also for the last four months.

He is good in his studies but his class teacher also says that he is not good in outdoor playing activities.

We are a nuclear family, but he plays with me or his father, but has difficulty with any new person.

One day we went to a water park but he did not enjoy a single moment. Our friend's children enjoyed it very much but he did not.

He enjoys the water but only on his own or with me but when in the swimming pool with lots of children he was scared.

Please suggest to me what to do, and how to behave with him.

Is there something wrong? Should I consult with a doctor or not?

Comments for 3 Year Old Boy Not Playing Well With Other Children

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Developing Physical Confidence And Social Skills
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Asha,
Please don't worry, there is nothing wrong with your little boy, we are all different and many children are more hesitant with boisterous outdoor play.

I take it he is an only child, so of course he has less experience with playing with lots of other children and if he has a shyer more hesitant personality then he will find it overwhelming when in a big exited group.

It also sounds like he may have had an experience of falling down stairs - maybe when there were other kids jostling around or perhaps even being pushed to hurry him up? Certainly in his mind it has become something that has added to his fear of not being safe physically when in a big group.

He is shy and hesitant around people he does not know well, and we are all different. Some kids are very extrovert and will immediately interact with other children and adults without any hesitation. Other children like to observe and take their time before they want to interact of play with others.

My own grandchildren are very different - the older one loves being the center of attention and chats and performs very happily.

The younger one is the observer, she watches everything that is going on around her and will only join in when she is ready.

Part Two Follows . . .

Developing Physical Confidence And Social Skills - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

School Helps Kids Learn Social Skills

Your little boy will have lots of opportunities at school to get more used to having other children around and start to gain confidence.

Don't take the feedback from his teacher as criticism that something is wrong, she is merely letting you know that he is not so confident in those areas.

We are not all sporty outdoor extroverts - the world needs lots of sensitive creative people too, so he will have many other strengths.

A three year old is very much learning about socialization - that is the skills they are developing, it does not come naturally and children have had different experiences in their family. Some kids have older brothers or sisters or lots of extended family around so they have had more opportunities for interacting with a wide variety of people. Some children have lived a more quiet family life and their parents may be fairly shy themselves so will have a different outlook on life.

Nothing is right or wrong - his personality is developing and he will gain more confidence in both outdoor play and interacting with others as he gets older.

School is not just about learning ABC or Math - a huge part of schooling is learning to build friendships, play and work with other children and learn to deal with conflict or lack of confidence.

How can you help?

Encourage him to try things out with you - but don't push him too hard or it will just push him into his fears.

Better to give him the safety net of "I'm here if you need me, but how about you try it out to see how you go?" When he is fearful - encourage him to talk about what he is scared of - and help him to find solutions instead of trying to make him do something he is afraid of. And of course don't tell him he is silly. "What would make it feel safer to try this out?" "What do you think would help you to feel more comfortable playing with the other kids?"

Encourage him without making him feel bad if he just wants to watch. If you push him too hard he will get more distressed. Many children take a long time to build up the confidence to take part in group activities or active outdoor play. It may never be something he enjoys much!

One On One Social Contact Is Easier

He is probably much more likely to be comfortable learning to interact with one person or child at a time rather than a big group of excited kids or adults. So invite one little classmate over for a play date on a regular basis so he is not overwhelmed.

Learning to play, share, interact are all skills that it takes time to learn, and the shyer more sensitive types among us need more experiences that are manageable so they have the opportunity to practice new skills and can take their time to feel comfortable.

Part Three Follows . . .

Developing Physical Confidence And Social Skills - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

All Kids Are Different

Some children just love running with the pack - having a big group of friends playing together running and wrestling and having lots of physical experiences.

Some kids would rather sit quietly with a book or are much happier playing quietly with one other child.

He has had a lot to deal with in the last four months - going from a lovely quiet home where everything was predictable, to a full on school experience where pretty much his whole day is out of his comfort zone. That is not easy for many children.

He will gain more social skills and physical confidence as he gets older.

As he gets a bit more adventurous or confident, you may like to see if there is some sort of gymnastic class or a swimming school or something he could be interested in learning physically that is not too overwhelming or team orientated.

When he gets more confident in his physical abilities then he might like to graduate up to team sports or activities - but that is a way off yet when he is a bit older.

For now your job is to help him gain confidence - physical confidence will increase his mental confidence and help to handle his fears. So climbing activities that are a bit of a challenge - even ball games with you and his father, that means he has to beat you or run fast at the same time as kick or throw a ball. All these kinds of games help to build his confidence in himself so he will be less fearful.

It just all takes time and practice - we sometimes forget that it can be quite hard to learn new skills, particularly in areas that are difficult. Even adults get anxious and stressed when trying out new things, so imagine what it is like for a three year old!

Just give him lots of reassurance, and encourage him to try - it doesn't matter if he makes a mistake, what is important is keeping on trying new things.

Good luck with him, and enjoy his growing up.
I am sure he will be just fine.

all the best,
Annie D :)

Thanks Annie
by: Asha

Annie thank you very much for a sweet reply. Now I can understand the situation better with my child and how to handle it.

Your answer is very helpful for me to understand my little one's mind.

Thank you very much.

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